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  • US soldier admits raping Iraqi girl

    by Al-Hack
    15th November, 2006 at 5:14 pm    

    BBC News is reporting:

    A US Army soldier has pleaded guilty to raping a 14-year-old Iraqi girl and helping murder her and her family. A criminal investigation began in June into the alleged killing by US troops of the family of four in their home in Mahmudiya, south of Baghdad.

    Four US soldiers are alleged to have helped a former private - who has since left the army - to plan, carry out and cover up the attack. Two of the soldiers could face the death penalty if found guilty.

    Update: CBS News has more.

                  Post to

    Filed in: Middle East

    72 Comments below   |  

    Reactions: Twitter, blogs

    1. raz — on 15th November, 2006 at 6:27 pm  


    2. Anas — on 15th November, 2006 at 6:28 pm  


    3. William — on 15th November, 2006 at 7:05 pm  

      I agree, despicable animals etc. As well, this happens where there are a lot of men. During the second world war 6 GIs stationed in the UK were hung for raping British women. About ten were hung altogether, some for murder.

    4. Kismet Hardy — on 15th November, 2006 at 7:18 pm  

      It’s totally to be expected (as those despicable photos in Times mag showed the world during the Vietnam war), not because they’re American soldiers. But because a lot of them are kids with very little life experience, prejudices that haven’t had the chance to get ironed out and big fuck-off guns.

      Bill Hicks gives the perfect example:

      Those guys were in hog heaven out there, do you understand, man? They had the big weapons catalogue opened up.

      “What’s G12 do, Tommy?”

      “Well, it says here it destroys everything but the fillings in their teeth, helps us pay for the war effort.”

      “Well shit, pull that one up. Pull up G12 please.”

      (missle explosion noise).

      “Cool, what’s G13 do?”

    5. El Cid — on 15th November, 2006 at 7:19 pm  

      Well at least there’s soemthing like due process, or is that not important?

    6. William — on 15th November, 2006 at 7:28 pm  

      Yes due process is important and they should be banged up. I just wanted to emphasise that maybe it is not just Americans want to rape Iraqi’s, necessarily that is.

    7. Kismet Hardy — on 15th November, 2006 at 7:32 pm  

      William, it’s all the more sickening that it’s Americans doing the rapings (everyone started shrugging over the killings many moons ago) because they justify their presence as protectors from the sick Iraqis (who are expected to rape and kill because they’re so barbaric). Something like this, twinned with all the torture-to-pass-the-time antics of the prison cells, just goes to show they’ve got bugger and buggerer reason to still stay there.

      You can only shudder at the number of such incidents that go unreported…

    8. El Cid — on 15th November, 2006 at 7:37 pm  

      I wonder whether 4 male witnesses were required? hmmm

    9. El Cid — on 15th November, 2006 at 7:38 pm  

      Religious parties boycotted the vote, saying the bill encouraged “free sex”.

      Is it me, or is that comedy genius?

    10. Kismet Hardy — on 15th November, 2006 at 7:46 pm  

      ha ha

    11. Kismet Hardy — on 15th November, 2006 at 7:48 pm  

      “A woman is raped every two hours and gang-raped every eight hours in Pakistan”


      (stops laughing)

    12. Kismet Hardy — on 15th November, 2006 at 7:50 pm  

      “Rape and adultery in Pakistan are dealt with under the Hudood Ordinance, a controversial set of Islamic laws introduced from 1979 by Gen Zia-ul-Haq.

      They include sections prescribing lashing and stoning as punishments for adultery.”

      Adultery, which is what women get accused of more than men back there. Um… and for rape?!

      Jesus this is depressing the shit out of me

    13. El Cid — on 15th November, 2006 at 7:50 pm  

      hmmm.. it’s certainly surreal, but maybe a bit too dark

    14. Anas — on 15th November, 2006 at 7:51 pm  

      Yeah, like I say on my blog, it seems like Pakistan is already a “free-sex zone”, only the sex is non-consensual.

    15. Kismet Hardy — on 15th November, 2006 at 7:55 pm  

      My girlfriend works in a women’s refuge. She was telling me horror stories about this bloke in Pakistan who beheaded his wife for serving his meal late. And that chopping off your wife’s tongue and nose is quite common.

      Nose, for crying out loud.

      Anyhoo, before this thread turns into an anti-Pakistan thing, back to the American soldier cunts

      And for the record, much as I abhor war, if there were one waged where the enemy were rapists and paeodophiles, I’d sign up in a barrage of shots

    16. Anon+1 — on 15th November, 2006 at 7:55 pm  

      That is fucking disgusting, death is too good for these people + id love to know how you would go about rehabilitating someone who does that, and would you want to pay for it with your tax payments?
      Indeed the world is a cold place to be, unless you are rich.

    17. Chairwoman — on 15th November, 2006 at 8:49 pm  

      This may sound cynical, but soldiers at war having been raping and pillaging since time immemorial.

      There’s no reason to be surprised that American soldiers lose the veneer of civilisation, war is hardly a civilising influence.

    18. Kismet Hardy — on 15th November, 2006 at 8:54 pm  

      Well it certainly gives the phrase ‘pull our troops out’ a whole sickening new twist…

    19. El Cid — on 15th November, 2006 at 8:54 pm  

      Is this still breaking news?

    20. Don — on 15th November, 2006 at 8:56 pm  

      ‘Two of the soldiers could face the death penalty if found guilty.’

      Maybe share the gig with Saddam?

    21. Kismet Hardy — on 15th November, 2006 at 8:57 pm  

      “The case also increased demands for changes in an agreement that exempts U.S. soldiers from prosecution in Iraqi courts.”

      And you wonder why they thought they could get away with it…

    22. Anas — on 15th November, 2006 at 9:10 pm  

      If it’s any consolation to the americans: I don’t think the Iraqis could think any less of them as it is.

    23. William — on 15th November, 2006 at 9:58 pm  

      it’s all the more sickening that it’s Americans doing the rapings

      I hope that doesn’t mean an American rapist is worse than a Iraqi one or any other one for that matter.
      A rapist is a rapist.

    24. Clairwil — on 16th November, 2006 at 12:00 am  

      ‘This may sound cynical, but soldiers at war having been raping and pillaging since time immemorial.

      There’s no reason to be surprised that American soldiers lose the veneer of civilisation, war is hardly a civilising influence.’

      Exactly Chairwoman. Sadly women have always been seen as part of the spoils of war. Oh yes and property, ‘our women’ and so on. Doesn’t excuse it by any means.

      I must say I do think the death penalty for rape is too harsh a punishment. In my opinion rape should be treated like any other serious assault. No more and no less.

    25. Isaa — on 16th November, 2006 at 8:06 am  

      I read this story on the second page of The Metro earlier today reporting how they shot up the family and then raped the girl. A depressing start to the day I thought but surely there can’t be a more depressing story than this. Turned over a couple of pages and read a story about an ex-bouncer from Salford who was babysitting his 6 month old niece and decided for no apparent reason to beat her to death and leave her in her cot overnight only to return in the morning and cover her with a pillow and beat her again. I decided to put the paper down and just stare into blank space instead, I had had enough.

      On the rape every two hours in PK, I think it’s every 2 1/2 minutes in the US so it’s a global issue and not confined to PK, but PK’s ancient out-dated laws don’t make the situation any easier.

    26. Not Saussure — on 16th November, 2006 at 9:41 am  

      Isaa; according to the FBI figures, there were 94,635 reported instances of rape in the USA in 2004. That’s about one every 5 1/2 minutes, I think.

      Of course, for the comparison with that for Pakistan to mean anything you’d need to take into account the fact the population of the USA is almost twice that of Pakistan and — rather more difficult — how likely it is a rape will actually be reported in either country. Somehow I suspect they’re more probably reported in the US than in Pakistan.

    27. Isaa — on 16th November, 2006 at 10:02 am  

      Not Saussure,

      I would say that they are underreported in both countries. I’m not making any excuses for the situation in PK and I’m in no doubt that many of the victims are killed for bringing ‘shame’ upon the family, however, when you take the annual number of rapes and divide them to get an hourly total, 1 every hour 2 hours doesn’t seem that high actually and I’m pretty sure you could create a similar sensationalist statistic about the UK, India or any other country as the stats from the US has shown. I’m under no illusions about the dire situation in PK. The last time I was in the Swat valley in Pakistan (the ‘Switzerland’ of Pakistan as it’s known) I was talking to a girl whose father is a local lawyer and was dealing with a case where a young lad was up for the murder of eight people. Seven guys who had gang raped his sister and the eighth victim was his sister.

    28. PedanticLurker — on 16th November, 2006 at 12:13 pm  

      Not Saussure, that number includes attempted rapes, as well as actual rapes, from the Uniform Crime Report.

      The UCR is the FBI’s compilation of stats from various police forces around the US. The other major source of crime stats in the US is the National Crime Victimization Survey (the US equivalent of the British Crime Survey, which is essentially a very large opinion poll on crime), the 2004 edition of which is here (pdf). According to that, in 2004 there were 58,780 rapes and 42,220 attempted rapes and 108,880 sexual assaults in the US that year (see table 28).

      If anyone wants to see the most recent BCS, a pdf can be downloaded here. Page 84 has the sexual offences data.

    29. Nick — on 16th November, 2006 at 12:25 pm  

      I suppose there is an argument to be had for PP to - Aljazeera-like - even the balance so to speak by carrying a story like this, but I can’t help being reminded of the worst excesses of Harry’s Place or even Little Green Footballs…

      Al “Hack” indeed.

    30. Anas — on 16th November, 2006 at 12:53 pm  

      Another story that brings home just how courageous and honourable some American troops can be:

      It is alleged that the eight-strong team went looking for a suspected insurgent.

      When they failed to find him the men became frustrated and dragged a disabled grandfather from his home, bound and beat him and then shot him to death.

      They never show you that kind of thing in hollywood movies.

    31. sonia — on 17th November, 2006 at 2:49 pm  

      soldiers have always been raping women - this has been going on for centuries. integral part of the booty of war in the old days. everyone knew what would happen when a city was ‘sacked’. problem is nowadays we are all pretending to be ‘civilized’. we seem to think that war can be carried on in a ‘civilized’ fashion.

      funny thing is people who go around believing that is possible are usually the ones who’ve never experienced war or lived in a city that’s been going through war.

      it’s not for no good reason people talk about how regardless of the ‘honourable’ reasons for war - once it starts, its just as ugly and pathetic and horrific as a war started for ‘dishonourable’ reasons.


    32. sonia — on 17th November, 2006 at 2:55 pm  

      good points clairwil and chairwomen.

      people who go on about decent men becoming soldiers - putting on uniforms- then taking them off when the war is over and voila! all is back to normal! don’t know what the hell they’re on about. one would think a whole generation of vietnam movies would have them think twice about it - but oh no.

      it’s all this nationalism and not wanting people to die in vain business. ‘we must glorify it’. that’s right - glorify it and keep it happening why not? *sardonic laugh*

    33. Clairwil — on 18th November, 2006 at 1:03 am  

      Exactly Sonia,
      War is uncivilized. When social controls are weak, bullies rule. All the more reason to make war the real last resort and not the toy of posturing weeds in politics who’ve never fought so much as a yawn.

      However decent people do put on uniforms and fight. If you saw where most of the ‘decent fighters’ came from you’d understand why they are desperate enough to do it.

    34. M.Sgt Roderick Seaton — on 4th December, 2006 at 9:26 am  

      As a Senior NCO of the US Marine Corps, I would like to say that when has not only seen, but have engaged in combat, you experience killing. When you have done the ultimate, one often become calloused and become morally bankrupt. Human integrity becomes difficult after such an act, and thus, it is often difficult for soliders who have served tours on active duty having engaged in combat to live like a normal civilan. Morality and ethics of not raping and the like are all good, but are usually afforded by civilans and Army Recruits who are not in Combat Arms.

    35. Chairwoman — on 4th December, 2006 at 11:05 am  

      M.Sgt Roderick Seaton - Thank you for taking the time to join us.

      I have said for many years that soldiers at war rape and pillage. The Romans did it, the Vikings did it, and every army before and since have done it.

      As we glibly said in the sixties, war’s a bad scene, man.

    36. Bert Preast — on 4th December, 2006 at 11:20 am  

      There is some truth in what Sgt Seaton says, but it should be pointed out that killing does not automatically destroy morals. It happens of course, but good officers and SNCOs should have enough of a grip on the younger lads that it never becomes the norm. On the return to civvy street this grip is lost which causes problems, but there is still no excuse for rapes in Iraq. Killing of male civilians is to me quite understandable in a war, but 100% of the army, from the rawest recruit to the staff officers, all fully understand that rape is not the done thing.

      I also note that a US soldier got 40 years today for a rape in the Phillipines - about 4 times what a civilian would get - so it’s not something anyone looks leniently on.

      Chairwoman, you’re right in that rape and pillage was a soldier’s right since time immemorial - the difference is that too many of those rapes promptly sparked off other wars so it’s been a capital crime at least in UK forces for centuries now. Well, it was until 1996 when the EU in their infinite wisdom stuck their oar in.

    37. sonia — on 4th December, 2006 at 11:22 am  

      35. yep you said it chairwoman. and roderick seaton - yep..unfortunately.

      and i think it is only strange idiots who’ve never been in violent situations who can talk ( or think) of going to war without understanding what that actually means on the ground. ordinary civilians i might excuse but war commanders and leaders? they know what its about - they might simply ignore it as a ‘necessary evil’ to get what they want. and that’s what i find unforgivable - it’s just so damn stupid. now we hear people say oh yes iraq is a mess. afghanistan is a mess. oh hang on - guess what - vietnam was a mess. what happened when all the soldiers came back? they were a mess. who helped them - their country? oh no. a generation or so of vietnam movies - are we any wiser? clearly not. and the british troops haven’t even come back yet. Let’s see how the government deals with them - if they dare try and brush all the problems the soldiers will have ‘adjusting’ under the carpet, and not look after them - there will be trouble!

    38. Jai — on 4th December, 2006 at 11:23 am  


      =>”that soldiers at war rape and pillage…..every army before and since have done it.”

      With all due respect, “not every army”. The Khalsa army under Guru Gobind Singh most certainly did not engage in either of the above, not least because of the Guru’s exemplary leadership and explicit prohibitions of such activities.

      Occasionally some genuine heroes have existed in human history, y’know. Guru Gobind Singh was one of them — something noted even by contemporary historians on the “enemy” side.

    39. Bert Preast — on 4th December, 2006 at 11:26 am  

      I should also point out that the one thing I’ve never seen a shortage of in war zones are prostitutes. All war zones except one, anyway. Iraq. Perhaps a new regiment is needed to accompany the troops?

    40. Bert Preast — on 4th December, 2006 at 11:27 am  

      Jai - but were the Khalsa quite as pure after the passing of Gobin Sikh?

    41. sonia — on 4th December, 2006 at 11:29 am  

      yeah well of course it’s a ‘crime’ but the point is that the whole system of war is fucked - we can try individual soldiers and what good is that going to do if the wars carry on? i feel sorry for soldiers actually - it’s a terrible situation to be put in ( yes i cant imagine why anyone would be a soldier) - some people go one way and some people the other - but let’s not forget its a complete f**cking nightmare. and some people go completely psycho - we can choose to blame them - or we could think about what we might be doing in similar circumstances. i think the crux of the points above was that war does not make it easy for ANYONE to stay sane. it’s easy for people who haven’t experienced war to be all glib about it - the bottom line is killing is terrible, rape is terrible, everything that makes up war is terrible - why go there? i remember a discussion a while back about people distinguishing between terrorists and soldiers - yeah i know some people will have soldiers in their families - but the point is you dont go into combat and come back with the same ‘sanity’ you went out with. Sorry - but you don’t. If people actually thought about it, they’d not want anyone in that situation - and especially not their families. crappy abstract concepts like ‘patriotism’ and ‘honour’ cloud this issue - people don’t want to think their families or loved ones have ‘sacrificed’ their lives in ‘vain’ so they must needs look for some glory. well glory is all very well and good but at the end of the day - what happens to soldiers when they come back home? who understands what horrors they went through? who’s going to help them cope? what is going to get them through?

    42. Jai — on 4th December, 2006 at 11:31 am  

      Also, Rajput soldiers in pre-colonial India had explicit codes of conduct where warfare was only conducted on the battlefield against other professional soldiers. “Rape & pillage” atrocities, and attacks against civilians as part of military strategy, were anathema to them, even though such techniques were used against their own kingdoms by the Mughals during the latter’s imperial expansion (the most famous example being the fall of Chittorgarh due to the attack & siege by Emperor Akbar).

    43. sonia — on 4th December, 2006 at 11:31 am  

      it’s convenient for the rest of us to ignore that reality and it’s convenient for governments and nation states. what are humans in armies anyway? they’re expendable clearly in the minds of governments.

    44. Bert Preast — on 4th December, 2006 at 11:32 am  

      Sonia - other soldiers who’ve been through the same things. Civilian counselling is likely to make the problem worse rather than better.

    45. sonia — on 4th December, 2006 at 11:33 am  

      next time people bring up ‘honourable’ reasons to go to war vs. dishonourable reasons i shall remind them of the not so honourable side effects of ALL wars. and for those people who are somewhat skeptical : there’s only one solution - real experience :-)

    46. Bert Preast — on 4th December, 2006 at 11:34 am  

      Jai - the Victorian British army also had such strict codes of conduct. Doesn’t always mean they were enforced.

    47. sonia — on 4th December, 2006 at 11:36 am  

      yeah precisely pert breast. in any case you forget that plenty of us ‘civilians’ have seen war too - on the other side of the fence from the soldiers! i.e. the people perhaps who had guns pointed at them. we’re no less traumatized thanks very much!

      you dont seem to get what im saying - the bottom line is that it is so screwy the whole war thing - even counselling by whomever is not necessarily going to ‘work’. that’s the whole point - sending people off to kill and then bringing them back, finding some ‘solution’ - it’s all assembly line mechanical thinking. you can’t do that to humans. you dont know who’s going to break and who isn’t. some people survive and become stronger. some completely lose it. It’s just a DUMB THING TO DO if you can AVOID IT.


    48. sonia — on 4th December, 2006 at 11:38 am  

      sorry if i seem to be getting personal Bert - i didn’t mean to. But this is such an important thing for me - and having experienced war i know what im talking about. im pretty lucky - and i just think it’s horrific that it carries on time and time again and we as a collective dont seem to ‘get it’. Some people do and some clearly dont and some do and don’t give a fuck. and then they’re all the people who’re LUCKY enough to have been ‘spared’ who just don’t get it and think it’s okay to talk about coolly and calmly about someone else getting blown up.

    49. Bert Preast — on 4th December, 2006 at 11:43 am  

      Sonia - we have a volunteer army meaning that psychological problems will be far less frequent than among conscripts, and far less severe. Most of our soldiers who go to war want to go. So if they can’t cope they will be more prone to feeling angry with themselves than with a wider society. Those who can cope are more likely to feel depression on return at how civilians idolise the trivial things in life, but not necessarily decide to kill them for it. Don’t panic so.

    50. Bert Preast — on 4th December, 2006 at 11:44 am  

      I should point out that I’ve been to several wars.

    51. sonia — on 4th December, 2006 at 11:47 am  

      Bert - 46 good point. codes of conduct are all very well and good in theory. Jai - sorry - i think what you say is no doubt valid - im sure the rajput soldiers had codes of conduct - and yes when ‘battles’ were waged in battlefields with other professional soldiers things are always different to when cities are ‘sacked’. but if you’re trying to tell me that when cities in ‘pre-colonial’ india were sacked ( and that’s like what - how many centuries are we thinking) there were no rapes no nothing well then…im just laughing..

      the whole point of a city being ‘sacked’ is that it is NOT a ‘controlled’ situation of conflict - where someone is in a position to ‘enforce’ whatever code of conduct there may be. it’s out of control and crazy.

    52. Jai — on 4th December, 2006 at 11:47 am  

      Bert Preast,

      =>”but were the Khalsa quite as pure after the passing of Gobin Sikh?”

      Not immediately afterwards under the command of Banda Singh Bahadur, as evident by the sack of the town of Sirhind, which was in direct violation of the Guru’s teachings regarding permissible warfare.

      However, the Khalsa during the subsequent “Misl” period in the 18th century were famous for their high morals and were also involved in rescuing large numbers of captured Indian women who were being taken out of the subcontinent for use as slaves and concubines by invaders from the northwest, for example. The fact that they did not engage in “plunder” or assaults against women was also recorded by Muslim historians of the time, even though some of the latter had little affection for Sikhs in general.

      In any case, I regard the ethos and actions of the soldiers during the time of Guru Gobind Singh as being the zenith of Sikh (and, indeed, human) behaviour during times of war, so my point was that these high standards have indeed been set and are achievable, and that it’s therefore not correct to state that “every army” will behave in a certain way or that it has done throughout history. It depends on a) the nature of the military leadership, b) what kind of people are recruited to fight, c) the “culture” and ethos within the army itself, and d) the reasons which the army is involved in warfare.

      Impeccable leadership + impeccable codes of conduct + impeccable rationale for warfare => less likelihood of the soldiers involved degenerating into rape & pillage mindsets.

    53. Bert Preast — on 4th December, 2006 at 11:50 am  

      Jai - have you read Flashman and the Mountain of Light? A lot of it’d annoy you but it paints a good picture of Khalsa rank and file.

    54. sonia — on 4th December, 2006 at 11:51 am  

      “impeccable rationale for warfare”

      so jai where did you grow up again? presumably you’ve never seen combat if you really + truly believe the above exists.

    55. Chairwoman — on 4th December, 2006 at 11:56 am  

      Bert - I didn’t intend to imply that rape and pillage were soldiers’ ‘rights’, I said that’s what they did. Not the same thing at all. BTW welcome back.

      Jai - You really are a sweetie (now I’ve embarrassed you in a traditional auntieji fashion).

    56. sonia — on 4th December, 2006 at 11:59 am  

      the bottom line is that people who have no experience of war happily live in denial about exactly what war constitutes. it is precisely this denial that makes it easier for our oh so shitty leaders to keep dragging us to war. this business of ‘oh but group Xs soldiers were more well behaved than group Y’ - is useless stuff to cogitate on. No - the reality of war is such it doesn’t matter what kind of training you have or don’t have - war is a pretty ‘equalising’ force in its inhumanity. That is the major point - and it’s only people lucky enough to have not been directly involved in one who seem to think otherwise - because of the luxury of ignorance.

    57. Bert Preast — on 4th December, 2006 at 12:01 pm  

      I think the last proper sackings done by the British army were in Spain in the Peninsular war, Badajoz and San Sebastian nearly 200 years back. And we were allied with the Spanish who’s cities we sacked.

      Strange how Wellington, the general responsible, still has statues in cities all over Spain. They understood warfare and soldiers better in those days, perhaps.

    58. Jai — on 4th December, 2006 at 12:01 pm  


      The Rajput concept of “jauhar” which I’m assuming you’re familar with developed after the Islamic invasion of India. The fact that warfare existed between Rajput states prior to this, but that the custom of mass suicide of Rajput women within besieged fortresses and cities to prevent themselves from being raped and captured by Muslim soldiers developed after the Islamic invasions and as a direct result of the behaviour of Muslim armies towards defeated “local” civilians, should tell you something about codes of warfare in northern India prior to 1000 years ago.

      Wikipedia has a link here:

      It’s also been recorded that During the time of Guru Gobind Singh, some of his more misguided warriors even suggested “tit-for-tat” rapes due the prevalence of this activity by Mughal armies against non-Muslim civilian women during times of warfare. The Guru immediately snapped at them “I’m trying to raise you up to God, not drag you down into the gutter”. One should also bear in mind that out of the 14 major battles the Khalsa army was involved in under the Guru, not one of them was against civilian targets or conducted to gain territory, wealth or slaves, so the question of raping & pillaging didn’t even arise.

    59. Jai — on 4th December, 2006 at 12:12 pm  

      Bert Preast,

      I know of the Flashman novels but for obvious reasons I don’t have a great deal of faith in some aspects of the historical accuracy involved. Ditto for the “Sharpe” novels. Some substantial liberties were taken in his book detailing the war against Tipu Sultan, for example.


      =>”so jai where did you grow up again? presumably you’ve never seen combat if you really + truly believe the above exists.”

      History itself from multiple sources bears witness to the above having actually existed, as I mentioned previously. Having someone like Guru Gobind Singh at the helm does make a difference, of course, but unfortunately it’s unlikely that the average political and military leader of our modern times is necessarily going to mirror those heights of character and idealism.

      I think that your own experiences have made you too cynical (understandably and I do sympathise with this — please don’t think I’m having a go at you about it).


      Re: post #55

      That’s very kind of you and a very nice thing to say. Another step in your journey towards full-scale Auntiedom ;)

    60. Bert Preast — on 4th December, 2006 at 12:18 pm  

      Jai - Sharpe indeed has the feel of being written for TV, but if you’ve never tried Flashman give him a go. George MacDonald Fraser is a noted historian as well as a novelist and most of the series are accurate in portraying some of the main players and the events of the time. His books will have you gaping in astonishment, crying with laughter, reeling in shock and chewing your own foot off in rage. You’ll love it.

    61. Sid — on 4th December, 2006 at 12:20 pm  

      Sikhism is not the only religion that idealises a “golden age” when its fundamental precepts were laid down as law and/or exemplary behaviour. All religions also experience shocking levels of degradation soon after the demise of individuals who were taken as iconic figures of supra-individual nature, such as Guru Gobind Singh. Sikhs certainly have wonderful precedents for warfare - but human nature being what it is, the chances are that values of Sikh soldiers, just like any other, are bound to degenerate to their natural tendencies. And as CW and Sonia have stated correctly - war corrupts and soldiers kill and rape because these are characteristics of war and individuals caught up in war - and not because of the individuals themselves.

    62. sonia — on 4th December, 2006 at 12:32 pm  

      yah jai - i daresay having lived through a war has made me ‘cynical’. TO SAY THE LEAST! damn right made me cynical. :-)

      that’s what my point was. if you haven’t experienced war yourself, you wouldn’t know the first thing about it would ya? you’d just be doing precisely what i was talking about - luxuriating in the ‘not knowing’. and you know what? having lived through that war is what makes me at the same time optimistic -> that you can make it through and you can realize what a shitty thing the whole thing is, and not just become ‘part’ of it by perpetuating the killing. Plenty of us live through war and realize how terrible it is and have a real part to play in trying to get the rest of you to realize that it’s something - believe me - you don’t want to find out about first-hand. Of course the down side is that plenty of people become so traumatized they just carry on the cycle of violence.

      but i do think if people who have zero clue about war didn’t idealize it so much it would be much easier to think about the real consequences of war and talk about it when a country is ‘debating’ whether to go to war. See back in 2003 i was like..say what you like, it doesn’t matter Left or Right - the bottom line is what will happen to the reality on the ground? i knew what was going to happen - anyone who’s ever been in conflict knew what was going to happen. WHo was surprised? Blair? Bush? the war commanders? well if they were suprised at the way things turned out -they need to go to school - and enroll in Military 101.

    63. sonia — on 4th December, 2006 at 12:36 pm  

      or of course - go out to the theater of ‘action’ and throw away their return tickets. :-) that would probably teach ‘em a thing or two. HA ha. ( and anyone else who wants to warp on about the impeccable logic of war - please feel free to go around and have a good LONG look)

    64. Jai — on 4th December, 2006 at 12:40 pm  


      =>”and anyone else who wants to warp on about the impeccable logic of war”

      You don’t think proportional military actions against solely military targets on the open battlefield are justifiable when all other legitimate non-violent means have been exhausted, in the event of a) self-defence against unwarranted attack, or b) to defend a third-party which is unable to successfully defend itself against unwarranted aggression ?

    65. Jai — on 4th December, 2006 at 12:43 pm  

      ^^^…..if the above involves defence of civilian populations, and is not conducted to gain wealth, natural resources, territory, or power ?

    66. Jai — on 4th December, 2006 at 2:42 pm  


      =>”All religions also experience shocking levels of degradation soon after the demise of individuals who were taken as iconic figures of supra-individual nature, such as Guru Gobind Singh…..And as CW and Sonia have stated correctly - war corrupts….”

      Excellent point. However, the teaching within Sikhism is that every individual has the potential to reach the same heights as Guru Gobind Singh in both their conduct and spiritual awareness — rather than the Guru being someone who has these qualities at a level impossible to attain by “ordinary mortals”. Amongst other things, it’s one of the reasons why Guru Gobind Singh did not being a “Singh” (or a formal member of the Khalsa) until he knelt in front of some of his followers and asked them to baptise him into the Khalsa order.

      Tying this into warfare, the Guru also said something along the lines of “Try to be a saint first before you try to be a soldier” — and this is why, in the Khalsa “sant-sipahi” ideal, the “sant” (ie saint) part comes first; it’s supposed to be the most important thing and the predominant aspect of what a Sikh should aspire to. Along with the mental, emotional, and (in this case, most importantly) the spiritual discipline and evolution it would inculcate in the person concerned, it also means that he/she would know exactly which circumstances warfare is permissible in, the permissible tactics to use, and they would not be corrupted by the obvious violence and brutality which warfare inevitably involves.

      Also, there’s a bunch of things a really committed Sikh is supposed to do, as you probably know — listening to hymns early in the morning and in the evening, various prayers and quiet meditation, consciously practicing internal self-discipline in various areas etc — and if performed properly and sincerely, these activities will have an effect on the person’s character and intuitive behaviour. So a “true” Sikh involved in warfare is supposed to be a saint (or trying to be one) who is involved in war for certain extentuating reasons, rather than a “normal” soldier. All those things are meant to affect the adherent’s conduct in war and also prevent them from sliding into the nastier activities prevalent during such violent situations.

    67. Chairwoman — on 4th December, 2006 at 2:56 pm  

      There seems to me to be a marked similarity between Sikhism and Buddhism, or am I over simplifying?

    68. Jai — on 4th December, 2006 at 3:23 pm  


      Some similarities, some differences; for example, Sikhism is an explicitly “theistic” faith, unlike Buddhism.

      Some of the parallels and differences are summarised here:

    69. William — on 4th December, 2006 at 6:23 pm  


      Thanks for the link I seem to remember reading that one. Yes there are similarities and some differences. I wonder as well how much depends on what someone chooses to focus on. I once read a book on Sikhism and there was a list of basics in which it seemed 7 or 8 out of ten were similar to Buddhism. In both there is rebirth, karma, enlightenment, nirvana. Nirvana is different. I would not agree that necessarily that Buddhism is atheistic however. More like there is a reality beyond human concepts of God. Some Buddhists do believe in god. There are also concepts in Buddhism such as “transcendant Omniscience”. I believe one Sikh definition of God is, impersonal, formless reality, omniscient, omnipotent etc. There is also a regard for the oneness of life.

      In both religions it seems philosophy can be put in a way to say we are born repeatedly and we learn and evolve until we reach a state of spiritual development whereby we don’t have to come back to the earth anymore. This can also be true of western spiritualism.

      There are also ethics which are similar. Overcome greed selfishness, lust, attachments, be kind etc.

      Yes it is true that Sikhism is more God based. I do love some of the writings they seem to have a power to uplift just by their reading then although I have not looked at them that much.

      Interestingly legend has it that as well as travelling to Mecca, Guru Nanak travelled to Tibet.
      To many Tibetan Buddhists he is regarded as a saint.

    70. Jai — on 4th December, 2006 at 6:51 pm  


      It’s a slightly complex issue (and too detailed for this thread), but yes there are some fundamental similarities between Sikhism and Buddhism. However, there are some significant differences beyond the theistic/agnostic/atheistic angle but that would end up being a very long off-topic discussion.

      =>”I do love some of the writings they seem to have a power to uplift just by their reading”

      Agreed, even the English translation is frequently inspiring and uplifting in the manner you’ve mentioned. Which is the whole point — the words are supposed to be manifestations of God himself. One has to listen to them in musical form to get the full impact of the message though, as the music is supposed to convey the emotions behind the words (and God’s “personality”) in full. Guru Gobind Singh also said that anyone who wanted to really understand his message should listen to the hymns enshrined in the holy text. Perhaps surprisingly for those unfamiliar with them (given the martial image of Sikhism and the aforementioned saint-soldier ideal), neither the music nor (most of) the writings are particularly warlike; they actually have the opposite therapeutic effect. Which, again, is the whole point.

      =>”Interestingly legend has it that as well as travelling to Mecca, Guru Nanak travelled to Tibet.”

      Apparently he travelled extensively in all 4 directions. A stone slab was also unearthed in Iraq commemorating his visit and declaring him to be “King of Holy Men”. Quite interesting on multiple levels (think about it).

    71. William — on 4th December, 2006 at 7:21 pm  


      Thanks for the post and your explanation but maybe it helps me to understand a bit better. When I read some of the writings it did seem that there was something here beyond the purely aesthetic. As if someone knew how to use prose, careful choice of words in order to produce a spiritual effect, get accross maybe even something beyond the words. To touch more deeply.

      “A stone slab was also unearthed in Iraq”

      Not heard of that one. Fascintating.

    72. Jai — on 5th December, 2006 at 9:39 am  


      Here is a quote regarding Guru Nanak’s visit to Baghdad, from this webpage :

      “In 1916 a tablet with the following inscription was uncovered in Baghdad, “In memory of the Guru, the holy Baba Nanak, King of holy men, this monument has been raised anew with the help of the seven saints.” The date on the tablet 927 Hijri corresponds to A.D. 1520-1521.”

      This website gives a slightly different translation but has a lot more information about a shrine to the Guru which exists in Baghdad. I just came across this when Googling for the above quote, so much of the information here is new to me too:

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